The Turkish Bath

7:00 AM

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, The Turkish Bath, 1862
By MELISA CAPAN

Ingres’ Neoclassical The Turkish Bath revives a classic bathing scene present in many ancient cultures of Greece and Rome. Eroticism spills from all corners from the countless female nudes. Painted towards the end of his career, The Turkish Bath combines Ingres’ well-known passion for the female nude while also including his arabesque passion for the Orient. 

The cold and filtered lighting contrast the frivolity present in the Rococo movement. Lines dominate and Ingres’ brushstrokes appear tight as the pale skin tones radiate throughout.  He borrows various figures from his previous paintings and confesses that no live models were utilized. For example, the Valpinçon Bather appears in almost an identical position, only this time, she’s featured playing a stringed instrument. The Valpinçon Bather’s skin absorbs light in way that highlights her back and draws the viewer’s attention. This however, is no coincidence.

Initially The Turkish Bath included only one nude (the Valpinçon Bather) before being commissioned by Prince Napoleon III. Oh what a lovely gift to give my beautiful empress? He was presumably incorrect. She found such a painting incredibly unfit to be housed in their home with its excessive nudity. The art piece was then returned to Ingres and revamped. Ingres’ addition to The Turkish Bath was an insertion of 23 of his favorite subject matter, the female nude. A former Turkish diplomat found that the painting fit quite well amongst his erotic painting collection and purchased it in 1865. Eroticism isn’t for everyone, but The Turkish Bath culminates Ingres' life as a combination of his best themes and a centerpiece for his most famous works. 

Clearly, for him, 24 female nudes are better than just one. 

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